Is Nuclear Safety Really Safe?

With the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) overseeing and multiple layers of safety precautions, nuclear power plants are among the safest and most secure facilities in the world. Despite this, accidents can still occur that can have a negative impact on people and the environment. To reduce the chances of an accident, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) helps Member States to apply international safety standards to strengthen the safety of nuclear power plants. The most common response to this question is that nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima have caused fear among people.

We must take these concerns seriously not only because the public that could be affected by an accidental release from a nuclear power plant (NPP) must be protected, but also because the prospects for nuclear energy everywhere would be affected by public outcry following a serious nuclear event anywhere. In relation to nuclear energy, safety is closely linked to security, and in the nuclear field also to safeguards. The Sierra Club and other environmentalists have long opposed nuclear energy because of its promise of universal prosperity. Parties' obligations are largely based on the principles contained in the IAEA Safety Fundamentals document The Safety of Nuclear Installations.

These comprehensive and transparent nuclear risk and safety assessments, known as stress tests, involved a specific reassessment of the safety margins of each power reactor in light of extreme natural events such as earthquakes and floods, as well as loss of safety functions and serious accidents following any start-up event. It is important that the population living near a nuclear installation is confident that its safety is guaranteed by a politically responsible body rather than by a distant and unaccountable international regulator. Fortunately, an increasing number of scientists specializing in radiation, climate, and public health are speaking out in favor of nuclear power plants as essential for saving lives. The exercise covered 147 nuclear plants in 15 EU countries, including Lithuania with only decommissioned plants, plus 15 reactors in Ukraine and five in Switzerland.

Volcanic hazards are minimal for almost all nuclear plants, but the IAEA has developed a new Safety Guide on this topic. It is based on fusion rather than fission (division) of atomic nuclei, using very different processes compared to current nuclear power plants. The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Therefore, every country that currently uses or contemplates using nuclear energy has an interest in ensuring that nuclear safety is taken seriously everywhere.

While nuclear power plants are designed to be safe during operation and safe in case of any malfunction or accident, no industrial activity can be considered completely risk-free. The IAEA defines nuclear safety as preventing and detecting theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear materials, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities. Laurent Stricker, a nuclear engineer and president of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), says operators must guard against complacency and avoid overconfidence. All countries operating nuclear power plants have nuclear safety inspections and all work closely with the IAEA.

Jerald Shiiba
Jerald Shiiba

Professional tv junkie. General zombie lover. Professional pop cultureaholic. Infuriatingly humble music scholar. Freelance travel maven.

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